Simpleview, a digital agency specializing in the tourism sector, is developing a destination-focused service for Amazon Alexa and Google Home.
The company hopes to have a beta application ready before the end of 2019 that will enable consumers to search for destination information via the voice-enabled devices.
The information will be drawn from Simpleview’s database of destination information which already feeds into the websites of about 120 destination management organizations across the U.K.
The information is kept up to date by the tourism organizations or other third parties.
On the initiative, Simpleview managing direction for Europe Richard Veal says voice devices do not currently work for tourism and often can’t answer questions or just scrape search results.
He explains: "The starting point was our dataset and whether we could plug it into these new voice devices directly. The app can access the data on a place and send suggestions back to the user."
He adds that the company has proved the concept will work but that voice technology presents its own set of challenges, particularly around interfaces.
Subscribe to our newsletter below
“We’ve been doing graphical and visual interfaces for years but voice is totally different and we are literally at day one on how we use it as an interface.
“The challenge is how do you navigate the information by voice or conversation, how to present it and how to surface it.”
Veal argues that devices have to be able to interpret elements such as the dates people are searching for and the nuances of language.
He adds that the company has sought advice from chatbot specialists on turning phrases into intent.
“There’s lots of ways of saying 'What’s on in Liverpool next weekend?' but the artificial intelligence needs to be pretty confident what it is.
“The way we’re approaching it is by defining typical users - a couple with a young family, business traveler, student…” he says.
A further angle it is exploring is whether it could follow up a voice interaction with more information in a convenient format for users.